One Last Breath

The Red Raiders held on till the end to get their second win of the season, but it didn't come easy.

The crowd at the United Spirit Arena breathed a collective sigh of relief when the final buzzer sounded on Texas Tech's 69-64 victory over North Texas Wednesday night.

The Red Raiders spent the last eight minutes and 29 seconds of the game trying to break the press of the Mean Green and failed to make a single shot from the field in that time.

Tech held a 13-point lead with 10:30 left in the game only to see North Texas slowly chip away at the lead over next nine minutes as the 2011 Sun Belt Conference Runners-up cut the lead to 61-60.

Head Coach Billy Gillispie said a lot of the trouble the team faced in the second half just came from poor decisions and his team needs to calm down when facing the press.

"We have to learn to handle that a lot better because we worked too hard to put ourselves in a position to win and we almost gave it away," he said.

As the time ticked down on the clock, and the Red Raiders lead continued to dwindle, a freshman for the Mean Green started to step his game up to a whole new level.

Chris Jones, a freshman from Garland dropped 19 points in the second half bringing his total to 31 on the night, and six of those points came in a two minute stretch where the Red Raiders struggled to defend the ball screen.

North Texas' Head Coach Johnny Jones just entered his 11th season as the head coach of the Mean Green and he said Jones' teammates need to do a better job around him, but his offensive output and free throw shooting was vital to his team's success.

"His teammates created some opportunities for him to make some plays," he said. "He did a great job of penetrating and getting to the basket and finishing."

Jones was 12-for-13 on the night from the free throw line as well as he scored nearly half of his team's points.

The story of the game could have been Jones' dominance, but the last few minutes proved to win the game for the Red Raiders, and how they did it is beginning to become the theme of Tech's young season.

The Red Raiders may have failed to score a basket in the last 8:29 seconds of the game, but in that time, Tech went to the foul line 14 times and made 13 of them.

Junior Point Guard Ty Nurse led the way as he made all six of the free throws he took in that time.

Gillispie has said the entire year that his team has not practiced free throws, but their success from the line stems from the mental toughness of each individual player and the high intensity at which they practice.

"Our practices are very, very difficult, especially for young players," he said. "If you can make it through those kind of things, you go up to the line and you understand how important they are without anybody saying it."

This North Texas team was one win away from going to the NCAA Tournament last year and returned several players from their 2010 March Madness team. They beat Texas Tech last year in overtime. This was no easy game.

Tech will look to build on this quality win as the Red Raiders stay in town this Sunday as they face off against the Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin, a team who is full of newcomers just like Texas Tech.

The question remains: Will Tech build on this win over a quality team in North Texas, or will they take a step back as the season goes on?


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